Karol Józef Wojtyla , known as John Paul II since his October 1978 election to the papacy, was born in Wadowice, a small city 50 kilometers from
He made his First Holy Communion at age 9 and was confirmed at 18. Upon graduation from Marcin Wadowita high school in Wadowice, he enrolled in
The Nazi occupation forces closed the university in 1939 and young Karol had to work in a quarry (1940-1944) and then in the Solvay chemical factory to earn his living and to avoid being deported to
In 1942, aware of his call to the priesthood, he began courses in the clandestine seminary of
After the Second World War, he continued his studies in the major seminary of
Soon after, Cardinal Sapieha sent him to
In 1948 he returned to
On July 4, 1958, he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of
On January 13, 1964, he was nominated Archbishop of Cracow by Pope Paul VI, who made him a cardinal June 26, 1967.
Besides taking part in Vatican Council II with an important contribution to the elaboration of the Constitution Gaudium et spes, Cardinal Wojtyla participated in all the assemblies of the Synod of Bishops.
Since the start of his Pontificate on October 16, 1978, Pope John Paul II has completed 104 pastoral visits outside of
His principal documents include 14 encyclicals , 15 apostolic exhortations , 11 apostolic constitutions and 44 apostolic letters. The Pope has also published five books : "Crossing the Threshold of Hope" (October 1994); "Gift and Mystery: On the 50th Anniversary of My Priestly Ordination" (November 1996); "Roman Triptych - Meditations", a book of poems (March 2003); "Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way" (May 2004) and "Memory and Identity" (publication spring 2005).
John Paul II has presided at 147 beatification ceremonies ( 1,338 Blesseds proclaimed ) and 51 canonization ceremonies ( 482 Saints ) during his pontificate. He has held 9 consistories in which he created 231 (+ 1 in pectore) cardinals . He has also convened six plenary meetings of the College of Cardinals .
From 1978 to today the Holy Father has presided at 15 Synods of Bishops : six ordinary (1980, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1994, 2001), one extraordinary (1985) and eight special (1980, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998 and 1999).
No other Pope has encountered so many individuals like John Paul II: to date, more than 17,600,000 pilgrims have participated in the General Audiences held on Wednesdays (more than 1,160). Such figure is without counting all other special audiences and religious ceremonies held [more than 8 million pilgrims during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 alone] and the millions of faithful met during pastoral visits made in
Bio courtesy The Vatican